WOMEN'S CONTRIBUTION IN THE PROCESS OF NATIONHOOD
Women not just produce biologically, but also instill cultural and linguistic values in the society at large. Mother India has played a pivotal role in giving a direction to the freedom movement. However, the association of independent India to a mother goddess raised an eyebrow for a few. To quote feminist historian Madelyn Gutwirth's phrases, Mother India exuded a sense of "silent distance" and "emptiness of expression." Indeed, according to such national female idols must look untouchable to avoid becoming the objects of competitive sexual attraction among their followers, particularly their "sons" or male residents of the country. Their fundamental aim of functioning as a unifying symbol would be undermined if that happened.
The Visualization of Bharat Mata
The first image of Bharat Mata was designed by Abanindranath Tagore wherein the Bharat Mata is serene, where she has four hands symbolizing stability in different forms. It is from here that the journey of Bharat Mata starts. Abanindranath earlier thought of limiting the idea of Bharat Mata to Bengal. Bharat Mata was given her own characteristic song around the end of the eighteenth century. The beginning line of the song, "Vande Mataram" (I worship the mother) was inspired by this idea. On January 26, 1950, the hymn was formally adopted as Independent India's national song and as one of the new republic's unifying emblems. Despite the Constitution's demand on "equal status," a song honoring the nation-space as a fecund mother/goddess was subjugated to a national anthem honoring the same space as a geo-body as India got closer to independence. It isas though a sovereign polity must prioritize the cartographic representation of national territory as a stable geo-body with well-defined, regulated, and protected borders.
The Intersection of Geography and Mother Goddess
Ramaiah's artwork puts together two incompatible ideas pertaining to Earth—the anthropomorphic-sacred and the scientific geographic. Bhu Devi, on the other hand, is not only the goddess Earth in this painting, but also the geo-body of India, which is left unidentified but clearly visible from the incomplete contour of its mapped form, which includes the island of Sri Lanka off its southeastern point. M. Ramaiah, Bhoodevi (Goddess Earth).
Hinduism is as old as the Earth as a sensitive female and as Prithvi. Her marriage to male gods is also supported by these early texts, as shown by later narratives in the holy Sanskrit Puranas from the first millennium CE, in which she is saved from the control of an evil demon by Vishnu, who then marries her (in some versions of the legend). Expectedly, Prithvi is valuable to mortal sovereigns who claim her as their symbolic consort in exchange for the privilege of acting as her defender as gods on earth. While the image of Earth and its constituent elements as sacred, feminine, and maternal undoubtedly fuels the persona of Bharat Mata, there are important distinctions between the two goddesses, including the fact that Mother India has no known consort and that Prithvi appears in most of her visual representations as a deferential appendage to a more powerful lord rather than an autonomous deity in her own right. Mother India, therefore, is envisioned as the personification of a single patch of land rather than the entire Earth personified.
This was a momentous change that reflected a new national reality. Prithvi, as a sentient female deity, must make way for another mother/goddess who looms as the sacred. Other Mothers, Other Women are the personification of one's own nation. Despite Ramaiah's Bhoodev is an incredibly unique image, Prithvi fades into the background in the patriotic Indian imagination with the coming of Bharat Mata.
Intersection of Hindu Goddess and Nation
Sati, "the righteous one" (Kinsley 1987, 35–41), is another Hindu goddess who aids in the consolidation of India's new deity image. Sati, the fiery Lord Shiva's wife, immolates herself to punish her husband, who is slighted by her father, according to legend in ancient Puranas.
Bharat Mata's worshippers, particularly during the colonial period, did not hesitate to portray her as a mother in distress and a defenseless lady in need of their care and attention. As her devotees attempted to shape Mother India into a lady of substance, Durga's ferocious and independent demeanor was invaluable.
The Kali became the morbid focus of British fascination, fear, and wrath during the colonial period, as evidenced by the state's attempts in the 1830s to rid the new colony of the infamous Thugees, who were rumored to have a twin penchant for highway robbery and human sacrifice as their apparent devotion towards the Goddess Durga and Kali, powerful, independent-minded goddesses with a demonstrated capacity to kill and destroy, were a problem not only for the colonial state, but also for a modernizing Hindu elite leadership, whose more ferocious and uncontrollable proclivities were a potential embarrassment in a social climate increasingly governed by bourgeois respectability and sexual propriety. Their independence was in stark contrast to the normative assumption that females should always be under the authority of their male relatives, and women’s widowhood was a direct contradiction to the state of heterosexual marriage to which women were absolutely committed.
As the country began to be valorized as a ‘home’ and ‘family’ whose well-being could be ensured by the figure of the educated mother who nurtured her children into productive citizens in the late nineteenth century, this reformist enthusiasm gave way to a new patriarchy. The woman's role as wife or conjugal mate gave way to the woman's role as mother, nurturer, and caretaker. The woman as mother oversees the house, but her symbol, Mother India, oversees the nation as home. Motherland is asexual, compassionate, and pacifistic. In the countless tales of such deities, both in authorized Hinduism and in its many folk forms across the subcontinent, the virginal or autonomous mother/goddess typically shows vindictive, punishing characteristics. Mother India is mostly formed, even though she retains remnants of the fiery warrior and vindictive combatant, especially during the heady days of the swadeshi movement in the early years of the twentieth century.
As Dr. B.R Ambedkar said “However good a constitution may be those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a constitution may be, if those implementing it are, it will prove to be good.” This categorically supports and calls for social discourse, no matter how tough the laws and judiciary are, as a change which is determined not just by the law but by the people of the country. An inclusive environment for the development of the nation continues to be the goal for progressive India.
Gupta, C. (2001). The Icon of Mother in Late Colonial North India: 'Bharat Mata', 'Matri Bhasha' and 'Gau Mata'. Economic and Political Weekly. 36. 4291-4299. 10.2307/4411354.
Ramaswamy, S. (2010). The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India. Ukraine: Duke University Press.
Emmanuel, M. (2018, April 14). ““If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame”, Dr. Ambedkar’s final speech in Constituent Assembly. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from Bar and Bench:https://www.barandbench.com/columns/dr-ambedkar-1949-constituent-assembly-speech
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About the author: Manshaa is a law student. She likes to read and write about international politics and global diplomacy. She is also very fascinated with Indian Politics especially looking at the practical side of executing decisions within a government or any political party. She has groomed herself throughout her law school time to be able to complete multiple tasks efficiently